In the world of delinquent account collections, skip tracing is a constant, and in order to have a good collection department, some form of skip tracing needs to be part of it. Many people have never heard of the term skip tracing so a definition is in order.

“Skiptracing (also skip tracing) is a colloquial term used to describe the process of locating a person’s whereabouts for any number of purposes. A skip tracer is someone who performs this task, which may be the person’s primary occupation. The term comes from the word “skip” being used to describe the person being searched for, and comes from the idiomatic expression “to skip town,” meaning to depart, perhaps in a rush, and leaving minimal clues behind for someone to “trace” the “skip” to a new location.”   (Wikipedia)

The days when you went to the phone book, criss-cross directory, or reverse directory are old-school and costly compared to the skip tracing technology options today. In fact, just looking for an address or a phone number isn’t the only thing collectors can ask of technology.

With the advent of technology in general, the availability and quality of information has expanded dramatically. Price can certainly be an issue, but many times the price is very inexpensive when measured to the benefit gained by it.

The following is a summary list of the types of information that can be retrieved through technological means. We have broken it up into two different categories; private and public. By contracting with a vendor in the private sector, you can gain access to national information regarding a debtor.  Fortunately, many governments have access to other public sector information in a sharing type of environment.


Private Sector

Nearby Information (those people who live next door to the address you are researching)
Social Security Number Verification
Credit reports/scores

Public Sector Databases

Employment Departments
Provide recent name, address, salary, etc.
Driver’s License/Vehicle Registration Departments
Provide name, address, and asset information
Tax and Revenue Departments
Provide name, address, and asset information
Court and Law Enforcement
Utility records
Property Assessor
Licenses (marriage, professional, business)
Business registration

Skip Tracing Methods

Manual Search

Using a phone book still works but you can get most of the information on the internet, and it should be easier and more up to date, although that is not always the case.

Internet Searching by Collector

With the advent of the internet, you can do a lot to find a person by getting online and using the vast number of free options or by purchasing access to a service that provides this type of information.

There are plenty of free or low cost options online. In fact, you’ll be surprised at how many entities allow you to search their data. For instance, business licenses for every state are available online as are many professional affiliations. Most local, state and federal law enforcement facilities have their inmate rosters and outstanding warrants presented online.

It is true that you get what you pay for and when free doesn’t cut it; there is a wide variety of fee for service vendors. The most affordable vendors are those that offer subscription services that charge either ala carte or based on number of transactions. However, there are finder services that charge a one time, flat rate for a search. These tend to be more expensive and they are usually searching the same databases the subscription services utilize.

Automated Database Searching

There are a couple of different ways you can use an automated skip tracing database without having a collector involved in doing the bulk of the searching. The system is able to handle the major portion of the legwork to find out the information. We’ve identified two main options:

Batch Interfacing

The term “Batch” is used in reference to putting all your requests in a batch of information and sending it over to a vendor or government department. Once they get this batch of debtors you want information on, they match it up against their database and send you back any information they have on the debtor.

Batches can be done in many different increments of time. The most common found today is overnight processing.

This is a good option when you are processing many searches and it is not important you know right now the phone or address. If you find the phone is not good, and you send a request to get a new phone number, it can be requested and returned the next day, if it is in the database.

Real-time Interfacing

“Real-time” interfacing works in conjunction with your collection software system and is the fastest way to get information about a debtor.

While working an account, the collector can hit a pre-programmed button and a request will be automatically sent off to a database provider to do a specific search for you.

Depending on the type of collection system you use, both of these options can put the information found in the database service provider, straight into the collection system you use. This saves time and money and also provides a standard way for information to be processed into the system. All of the processing can be accomplished and then loaded into the collection software.